Home Expats Guide to Living and Moving To Indonesia as an Expat

Living and Moving To Indonesia as an Expat

Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, each with its own unique culture and way of life. With over 259 million people living in Indonesia, this country is the fourth most populated country in the world and is a melting pot of cultures, attitudes, and ideas. Indonesia is a firm favourite with expats from around the world, offering a diverse range of destinations to settle down in, a low cost of living, and a great base from which to explore the rest of Southeast Asia.

Updated: 03/06/2021
Read time: 11 minutes
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Moving to Indonesia Expat Guide

Indonesia consists of more than seventeen thousand islands, including Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, and Bali – a tourist and expat favourite for it’s laid-back way of life, beautiful beaches, and trendy eateries. Indonesia remains a popular destination for expats looking to work or retire abroad, offering a diverse range of cultures and locations to choose from, as well as being a fantastic hub for exploring the rest of Southeast Asia.

In this guide, we’ll look at everything you need to know about moving and living in Indonesia as an expat – from the visa you may need to the general cost of living in this wonderful country.

Types of Visas When Moving to Indonesia

Visa NameSuitable ForCostApplication TimeAdditional Info
Visa ExemptionForeign nationals from countries that are included in the 169 Visa-Free Country ListN/ARecieved on entryIf you are from one of these countries, you will be granted a 30-day tourist visa that cannot be extended. You must have a passport with minimum 6 months validity and return / through tickets.
Visa on ArrivalForeign nationals from 68 countries list (check if your country is included)N/AApply on arrivalYou must apply for this visa on arrival – you will be given a 30-day stay which you can then extend for a further 30 days at the Immigration Office. You will need a passport with minimum 6 months validity and return/through tickets.
Visit VisaUp to 60 days stay, which can be extended at the Immigration Office for 5 times with each extension given for another 30 days stayUS$355 business daysApply at the Indonesian Embassy in your home country. Mandatory requirements are: Application/Guarantee Letter, passport with minimum 6 months validity, copy of bank accounts, return tickets and re-entry permit.

Indonesian Way of Life for Expats 

Pros
Low cost of living
Good expat communities
Well-connected for travelling around South East Asia
Vibrant food culture
Excellent nightlife
Excellent range of Western amenities in tourist spots
Cons
Bureaucracy can make organising visas, property, licenses etc a difficult process
Private healthcare is essential, with travel to Singapore often necessary for major illnesses
Conservative attitudes can make some, especially women, feel uncomfortable at times
Traffic congestion is extremely common, especially in cities

Lifestyle

Indonesia is a real melting pot of different cultures, and the way of life on one island may feel completely different from another. In Bali, for example, attitudes are much more liberal. Tourism is a thriving business on the island, and many expats choose to settle here which means that you’ll find an abundance of Western eateries, a more relaxed and laid back way of life, and heading to a local beach bar in your bikini straight from the beach is commonplace.

In other spots, however, the culture may be much more conservative. On Java, the main religion practised is Islam. Foreigners are not unwelcome here, but you may find you need to adjust to a culture with stricter attitudes and more conservative practices – women in particular.

Weather 

Indonesia has a hot and humid tropical climate with two monsoon seasons. The eastern monsoon runs from June to September (dry season), and the western monsoon is from December to March (heavy rains). The best time to visit Indonesia for good weather is May through to September, with July and August being peak tourist season.

Travel

Public transport

Travelling around Indonesia and neighbouring countries is most easily accessed by air travel. There are a number of budget domestic airlines that fly routes daily for a low price (Lion Air and Indonesia AirAsia) to help you get from A to B.

Travelling around once you’re settled in a city or on an island gives you a number of choices. Mini-buses are a common method for getting around and tend to be cheap and quick, but be aware that you may have a cramped journey. Motorbike taxis are another popular option that can be a much quicker way to get around.

Private transport

If you want to drive in Indonesia, you’ll need your driving licence and an international drivers licence issued in Indonesia, as well as all the necessary insurance and registration documents. 

Traffic congestion is extremely common in Indonesia, so getting around by car can and often will involve long delays. You should also note that drivers in Indonesia rarely resect the rules, the road quality can be poor at times, and you’ll often find yourself dodging locals and animals alike who wander into the road – so get behind a wheel at your own peril.

Getting around by scooter is a more common method of transport for many expats, but this can also be incredibly dangerous. Indonesia is not an ideal learning environment for someone who has never driven a scooter before, and many foreigners end up in accidents.

Crime and safety

Indonesia has a reputation for being unsafe with many expats and foreigners, but while you should keep up to date with the latest travel advice issued by your government, there is no need to avoid Indonesia completely due to what you hear from others.

With many different islands and cultures, outlining crime rates and safety across all of Indonesia is difficult to generalise. Certainly, there are some areas such as Papua that are considered much less safe for foreigners than other areas with a booming tourist industry, such as Bali. 

Crime rates for things such as pick-pocketing, bag snatches, ATM fraud, and even home break-ins can be relatively high in Indonesia, so it pays to keep your wits about you and be aware of what is going on around you. Basic safety tips such as keeping your bag across your body and away from the road, not walking right on the edge of the pavement where someone could grab your bag driving past on a scooter, avoid walking around alone at night, and keeping your valuables out of sight when out in public are all good habits to develop.

If you are purchasing a property in Indonesia, you may want to consider additional security measures such as gating and CCTV to prevent break-ins.

Terrorism in Indonesia

There is a high risk of terrorism in Indonesia. Previous attacks have included suicide bombings targetting public places, and these have caused injury and death to foreigners in the past.

There’s a heightened risk during holiday periods. Government advice is to exercise caution especially during:

  • Christmas, New Year and Easter period
  • Chinese New Year
  • Nyepi (Balinese New Year)
  • Islamic celebrations and holidays such as Ramadan
  • local elections
  • presidential inaugurations
  • annual Independence Day celebrations (17 August)

Potential attacks could include places such as beach resorts, hotels, bars and restaurants, shopping malls, foreign embassies, places of worship and transport hubs.

Jobs for expats in Indonesia

As an expat, it will be easier to find employment with an Indonesian employer before you enter the country to give you enough time to apply for your visa and work permit, and for your employer to sponsor your visa application. The best way to do this is to search through local job portals online. Sectors with job opportunities for foreigners include education, tourism, business services, legal, and the oil and gas industry. 

Indonesia is a popular destination for digital nomads due to the low cost of living and abundance of cafes with a good internet connection. However, existing visa laws mean many expats living in Indonesia and working remotely are not strictly in keeping with the conditions of their visa. Nomads have recently been pushing for a digital nomad visa that would allow foreigners to work while on holiday in Indonesia, although this is still in the petition-phase.

Cost of Living in Indonesia

Indonesia is considered a cheap place to live with low housing costs (you can rent a beautiful villa with a pool just a short walk from the beach for far less than you’d pay for a property in most western countries), the extremely cheap and vibrant food culture, and daily necessities. One cost you will want to pay for is private healthcare to ensure that you are covered should you have an accident while living in the country.

General cost of living

Indonesia has a low cost of living, which is partly what makes it such an appealing destination for many expats all over the world. Eating out is much more commonplace than eating in, and often cheaper if you visit local street stands rather than tourist restaurants. Here, a plate of Nasi Goreng could cost you $1 or less.

Property

The cost of renting property is also low in Indonesia, although of course, it depends on where you are living and what your budget is. You can get a 1 bedroom apartment in the city centre for the equivalent of $250, while rental prices could go up to $800 for a house with a pool in a tourist location such as Ubud in Bali.

If you are planning on buying or renting a house long-term in Indonesia, it is a good idea to find temporary accommodation first, and arrange housing once you are in Indonesia so you can view properties in-person first and find a reputable estate agent to help you with your search and navigate any red-tape surrounding your purchase.

Healthcare costs 

Public healthcare in Indonesia can vary in quality, and can also involve long waiting times. In addition, expats are not covered under the universal Indonesian healthcare system, so having private healthcare insurance in place is essential.

Private healthcare insurance will not only give you access to better quality facilities with shorter waiting times, but it will typically also cover you in the event of needing to be flown to Singapore to world-class medical treatment should you have a major illness or injury. The cost of insurance will vary depending on your medical background, age etc. 

Schooling

If you are moving to Indonesia with your children, the most popular option with expats is to send children to international schools with a curriculum that is accredited by the relevant educational bodies in your home country. Jakarta, the capital, has the highest density of international schools in the country, although there are over 150 international schools across Indonesia to choose from.

Fees for international schools can vary depending on the school and the age of your child. You should expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 USD per year.

Banking in Indonesia

Opening a bank account once you’ve moved to Indonesia can make managing your transactions and accessing your finances much easier. There are several international banks that offer specialised expat services, including:

  • HSBC 
  • Maybank
  • Standard Chartered

There are also a number of good national Indonesian banks, most of which will allow you to set up an account in English. It’s a good idea to open an account with a bank that has a branch close to your home or place of work for added convenience. 

Banking fees you can expect to pay include:

  • ATM fees
  • Administration charges
  • Transaction fees

Additionally, you’ll need to have the minimum deposit amount available to open your account in the first place. If you can’t see a clear breakdown of the fees involved with opening your bank account, make sure you enquire before signing anything to avoid being hit with unexpected hidden charges.

Make sure to check out our list of top expat banks to learn more about the expat banking.

International money transfer fees

Another cost you will need to be aware of when it comes to banking is the fees you are charged to send money from your home country to Indonesia. These fees can add up quickly and amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars lost in exchange rate margins and transfer charges, so it’s important to find the most cost-effective service for your needs.

The two costs you’ll need to be aware of are:

  • Transfer fees
  • The margin added onto the exchange rate by your provider

Money transfer operators are often one of the best ways of sending your money across borders, avoiding the high transfer charges and exchange rate markups often associated with banks. You will usually have the option to send money to Indonesia in the form of a bank transfer, to a mobile wallet, or as cash that you can pick up from a selected agent location.

Our comparison tool is designed to provide a real-time breakdown of the best options for sending an international money transfer between your home country and Indonesia – use it to assess your best options for sending money based on cost, transfer time, delivery options, and more.

Popular Places to Live in Indonesia

Bali

Bali is one of the most popular destinations in Indonesia for expats and tourists alike and for good reason – the island has stunning beaches, world-class surfing, a huge density of high-quality restaurants and bars, and thriving expat communities. This beautiful island has an abundance of expat hotspots to choose from and has a laid-back way of life that draws in people from all over the world. Places in Bali particularly popular with expats include:

Ubud

Ubud is located in the hills in the centre of Bali, surrounded by scenic rice paddies and countryside. This is a great spot for expats interested in the healthy living scene, with an abundance of yoga studios, vegan cafes, and alternative therapies to immerse themselves in for improved well-being.

In addition, Ubud has a range of low-cost accommodation options and some great spots to work remotely from. Downsides, however, are that Ubud can be heavily congested with tourists at certain times of the year.

Canggu

Canggu is a surfer beach town with great nightlife and a huge array of restaurants, cafes, and bars to mix with other expats and travellers. This spot in Bali is quickly becoming a major digital nomad hub, with plenty of options with good WiFi to work from, and a wide range of activities to do in your downtime.

Accommodation in Canggu can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. Options range from a room in a homestay or guesthouse to renting your own beachside villa with a pool and sea view – it depends on what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for (and have the budget to afford!).

Uluwatu

Uluwatu is a chilled beach town that is a total surfer’s paradise – perfect for adventurous expats looking to get away from the crowds and looking for a home just minutes from world-class surfing. 

You can find cheap accommodation to rent in Uluwatu around a 10-minute walk from the beach – your best bet is to stay in a guesthouse initially and search around for a rental property once there.

Jakarta

As Indonesia’s capital city, it’s no big surprise that this is another popular destination for expats to settle. Jakarta is one of the best spots to be if you’re looking to relocate to Indonesia for career opportunities in particular. You should note, however, that living in a city as large and diverse as Jakarta comes with as many challenges as it does advantages: with traffic and noise pollution being major issues that may deter those looking to retire to the relaxed island life.

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Yasmin Purnell

Yasmin is the content writer for MoneyTransfers.com. With an English degree from the University of Nottingham and over 5 years’ experience freelancing in the personal finance niche, Yasmin joined the team with a mission to make international money transfers accessible and easy to understand for all. When she’s not writing, you’ll find Yasmin on her yoga mat or planning her next escape to the mountains.

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